Monday, April 28, 2008

One can't have too many tomatoes...


Although I have ended up with tomato seedlings given to me, I have acquired yet more. Come summer I will be awash in tomatoes. Garden Fever has such an amazing variety that I just couldn't resist. Tomatoes for canning, slicing, or just plain looking at. Lots of heirlooms, black, green, purple, striped, pink with orange spots (I'm only partly making this up). The winners for me were: Velvet Red, Striped German, Black Prince and Costoluto Genovese. They are worth buying for the names alone never mind the plants: Velvet Red has fuzzy foliage, Striped German has golden fruit with pink marbling, Costoluto has fluted tomatoes and Black Prince is - guess! - a black tomato. I am very pleased.

Still a bit too early to plant them out without the risk of a late frost but they'll keep the other, still tiny tomatoes company for a couple of weeks.

More news on the garden front: there is no sign of the damn carrots. Nada, zilch. Ditto the arugula Sylvetta. The broccoli and other arugula that I sowed at the same time are coming up. Maybe I was too hasty and too fooled by the nice weather. Will try carrot again but this time it'll be Danvers Half Long from Ed Hume. Should still have some more of the other arugula to do another row. I'll try and get out there over the next few days to see if something has happened but it looks like the first failure of the gardening year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

I usually stay away from growing tomatoes from seed. I tried but they all turned out spindly, weedy and small. Moreover, I usually ended up with too many yet felt unable to kill off the runts. Last year I had great success with just buying plants from a nursery (grape tomatoes for container-growing). This year I was going to buy plants for my plot.

This intention has been nixed (or at least been reduced in scale). I just got some tomato seedlings from a colleague at work. All were second leaf and in need of further transplanting. Apparently, her boyfriend, never having had a garden, has commandeered their bedroom and turned it into a greenhouse. I think she is glad to be rid of a few of them, however, that means that they are my responsibility now.

Varieties are Momotaro (mid season, indeterminate, two seedlings), Early Girl (early season, indeterminate, two seedlings), Black Tomato (dark purplish colour, indeterminate, four seedlings) and Gold Nugget (yellow cherry, determinate). Let's see how they are going to turn out.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Garden Clear-up

Remember how I said that spring has sprung? Well, not so much this week... Yesterday there was an Earth Day event at Overlook Park to which I cycled through hail. Good outcomes though: ended up with more free seeds (corn, borage, sunflowers) and other free swag (little thermos!).

Which brings me on to my first update on seeds. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, I saved some seeds from a store-bought squash to see if it would be usable. It is!

Now I have to figure out what to do them until it is time to plant them in the garden...

Today was the community garden clear-up (early 9am start - ugh - but new thermos came in handy). Usual suspects turned up to do some work and we managed to clear a path of weeds before turning to our own projects. Another clear-up is scheduled for beginning of May, with more volunteers (hopefully). Apparently all plots have been allocated and there is now a waiting list. Two more people turned up when I was leaving, they were the garden's Produce for People coordinators and have commandeered the raised beds - usually reserved for disabled people but not claimed this year - for growing stuff for the program. They used to be at Reed (famed and fabled for being nice and huge and then being closed to make way for student dorms) and seem very organised.

Before leaving I was checking over my plot briefly. Removed a few weeds but now it's easy if I can keep on top of them. Strawberries are still liking it. Arugula Roquette has germinated - yay!

There is no clear sign of the other variety of arugula yet but I'm hoping there will be soon. I think the broccoli was starting to peek through too. Sowed some chives and another row of broccoli.

Came home, had some breakfast/brunch, and then nerdishly made a list of seeds and a planting calendar. Now I'm feeling sleepy and I need a nap...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Spring has sprung

Today was 74 degrees Fahrenheit (about 24 in Celcius) after nearly week of cold dampness. It just suddenly feels like the planting and growing season is upon us. Amazing what a difference a couple of sunny days can make.

Last week I put in strawberry plants and arugula seeds. No sign yet of the arugula but the strawberry plants seem to enjoy it and are sprouting new growth.

(If you look very carefully, there is a ladybug on one of the leaves...)

When I arrived there were more gardeners I hadn't met before, along with more evidence of work going on in the rest of the garden. Next weekend is a big garden clear-up so I expect to see most of them there.

My task for today was putting in a few beds so I can start sowing carrots (Nelson Hybrid) and broccoli (Zamboni sprouting). Since my sowing times and bed creation are all mixed up, I had to change the drawn plan I carried along, noting what I had sowed where and when. I am going to try and remember to sow little and often. Today I sowed two short rows of carrots and 1 short row of broccoli. Next week I'll sow more of the broccoli.

I also put up some poles that will serve for growing beans (still need to get string and really make sure they are solidly in the ground). It's starting to look respectable (the gardener I met commented that I was "approaching it very methodically").

Oh, and there was a first harvest of sorts: I finished off the day by collecting dandelion leaves for the guinea pigs from areas that haven't cleared of weeds yet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

seed gathering

I'm currently trying an experiment: I got a Kabocha pumpkin last week for eating and wondered if the seeds were any good. They may be duff of course or not come true but it is worth a try. I just planted some today and will see if they at least germinate. Will post about the outcome...

Monday, April 7, 2008

How to get a plot

On Saturday a new resident across the street from the community garden asked me how to get a plot there. Many of my friends have also asked how to get a community garden plot in Portland, OR. Here's how I did it:

Look at the Portland Parks and Recreation site. They have a map of community gardens. Pick a few that are not too far away from you. Phone them or email them. Remember, community plots are like gold dust. Be prepared to wait. Unfortunately, no plots were available in my preferred gardens but they offered me a plot further away. It's manageable by bike (30 minutes), better by car. At least I'm gardening. I jumped at the chance.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

My new friend is a rake

The garden fork has been my constant companion since I started this garden. I have now dug over the entire plot 3 times. Not sure whether a spade would have been a better tool (there are none in the tool shed). I prefer the fork to the "claw" - it doesn't feel comfortable enough and turning over weeds on a large scale is impossible.

Today, I went back (in the rain!) to fork in the semi-composted manure I spread on it last week. As I went along I removed all grasses and sprouts in the soil that managed to keep on growing after being buried for at least 2 weeks. I certainly don't want those to get going when the weather gets a bit warmer...

The soil now actually feels and looks nice. Crumbly enough to use a rake to form one small bed (not worth it yet for the rest). Raking a new bed is very enjoyable, it feels like precision surgery after all that digging.

I had some strawberry plants in pots and seed packets at the ready to make use of the new bed. I sowed two short rows of rocket: Bog-standard rocket and Sylvetta Wild (both from the Territorial Seed Company). The strawberry plants were a "parent" plant I got from Livinsgscape Nursery last year (a free gift after buying something else) and 4 plants from its runners. Hopefully we do not get a late frost but keeping them in pots any longer didn't seem like a good idea (I keep forgetting to water them as they sit on the porch). The variety is Hood:

Hood is a pacific northwestern variety characterized by fruit borne well above the soil on strong, upright clusters. The berry is large, round and conic. The skin is glossy bright medium red. The berries are firm with a pleasant flavor. The fruit ripens midseason. Nice for preserves and jams. - Lassen Canyon strawberry growers
The first plants and seeds are in. Woohoo! The season has started.